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Midway family prepares to say goodbye to girl who fell ill on Make-A-Wish trip

Published: Sunday, Oct. 7 2012 6:08 p.m. MDT

MIDWAY — Instead of meeting their daughter's favorite Disney characters, a Midway family prepared to say goodbye to her in a Florida hospital Sunday.

The McDonald family, who expected to spend the week celebrating the life of their daughter Mia on the trip granted her by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, found themselves instead in a hospital room in Tampa, Fla. 

Just hours after arriving in Florida, 4-year-old Mia got sick — her body rejected the transplanted heart she received when she was just 4 months old. During a biopsy, she went into cardiac arrest. Mia suffered brain damage and has been on life support since. The family plans to remove her from life support Monday.

John McDonald said his daughter had big plans to meet her two favorite characters when they left Utah for a trip to Disney World on Oct. 2.

"She loves Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse," McDonald said.

But Mia never made it to the park. The family has a picture of Minnie Mouse holding a sign that reads, "Keep fighting Mia."

In 2008, Mia got a heart transplant and in turn, a second chance at life.

"You would never know that this girl had a heart transplant," McDonald said. "She was just a beautiful, healthy looking, happy girl."

But her condition went downhill quickly in Florida.

"There was no buildup to this," McDonald said. "All of a sudden, she's not here."

In the midst of their grief, the family is also thinking about a little boy named Jacob, whom they never knew. Jacob became the donor who provided Mia's heart transplant when he passed away in 2008.

On Nov. 10, 2011, the third anniversary of Mia's transplant, her mother, also a transplant recipient, made a video.

She wanted to thank the stranger who lost her son but saved Mia's life through organ donation.

That woman, who lives in Rhode Island, met the McDonald family for the first time Sunday to hold Mia in her arms.

"To know that part of her little boy is still alive, to know that her little boy's heart is beating and giving life is a very powerful thing," McDonald said.

It's a gift the family never took for granted. They say Jacob was always a part of their lives and they thank him for the four years he gave their little girl.

"It seems like life will be incomplete," McDonald said. "There will be a hole right in the middle of our family."

The family plans to donate as many of Mia's organs as they can to help other children. Her father says answering the prayers of another family in a hospital room somewhere may help them heal and find some peace.

E-mail: syi@ksl.com

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